Stefano Bollani was 14 when he first saw the movie Jesus Christ Superstar. He instantly fell in love with the music, the story, the atmosphere of the scenes and the warmth and profundity of the strong, round film characters. He soon learned every word of the lyrics, but he hardly dared perform the music – he simply treasured the original too much. And yet, he so much wanted to do it. So the only way out for him was to conceive a version of his very own that would be very different from the original. After over thirty years of multi-faceted music making, Bollani finally decided to record his own reading of Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice’s masterpiece. “I have chosen the piano solo formula because the love affair here is actually between the rock opera and myself, and – Bollani explains – I know a love affair is better when it stays intimate.” Most grateful for the exceptional permission granted to him by Lloyd Webber to re-interpret the cult opera, he has freely but respectfully approached and improvised on the original tunes by following his own playful wit and musical spirit, informed by many of the genres, styles and encounters that have shaped what is considered his very own idiom. Also in concert, when performing his JCS version, Bollani, who usually never takes the stage with a pre-conceived set list, insists on respecting the narrative structure of what he considers to be “the most fascinating story ever told” about love & hate, devotion & treason, life & death. He wants his piano to tell and sing the story, and vehicle the profound and archaic emotions and extreme unanswered questions raised by the original work. Piano Variations on Jesus Christ Superstar was internationally released by Bollani’s own label Alobar in April 2020, that is, as it turned out, 50 years after Lloyd Webber & Rice’s chef d’oeuvre.
An exceptional piece of jazz virtuosity driven by a transformational childhood memory, this is a bountiful celebration of a great Italian artist’s love of music’s life-affirming powers, too.
“The Guardian” 3 April 2020, John Fordham (CD of the month)
The regard and understanding Bollani has for these tunes is abundantly evident in his improvisations, sometimes passionate, sometimes elegant, always respectful and cogent.
“BBC Music Magazine” June 2020
Bollani, inspired and concentrated, plays sparkingly, brilliantly, but without overdoing ornamenting. His interpretation does not hide the original, but develops new formal beauty. A true listening pleasure.
“Stereoplay” 6/2020, Ralf Dombrowski (Jazz CD of the month)
Endowed with an impressive sense of rhythm and a masterly touch, Stefano Bollani is here at his technical and musical best, hopping from being intensely lyrical to comical. No less was needed to resurrect that Jesus.
“Jazz Magazine” June 2020, Vincent Cotro (‘CHOC’ – CD of the month)
He’s turned his youthful love of Jesus Christ Superstar on its ear with as much daring as adoration. Bravo, maestro.
“JazzTimes” August 2020
Stefano Bollani – piano